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Home Heating Survey

by asdf Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 10:06:36 PM EST

With the onset of cold weather, I'm interested in finding out how other ETers manage their home heating systems. Americans obviously have a reputation for overheating their houses, and I'd like to hear some real-life stories about this from the European viewpoint. (Or anybody, really.)

This is roughly what our furnace looks like:

Here in Colorado Springs we have now had a few nights where it's gotten below freezing outside, but so far our house has not dropped below 63F (17C). Our furnace uses natural gas and forced hot air circulation. So far we have left it off, and the goal is to make it to November 1st before giving in to temptation. Then we try to keep the house as cool as possible. Our thermostat is an "automatic setback" model with an electronic clock and calendar in it, and we set it so that the house is at 63F at night, 68F (20C) during the morning and evening when we're home, and 55F (13C) during the day.

How warm is it in your house?


Display:
Weather prediction is for a warm day tomorrow.

http://www.weather.gov/forecasts/graphical/sectors/centrockies.php#tabs

by asdf on Tue Oct 16th, 2007 at 10:10:17 PM EST
I live in an apartment in Japan.  As such, I have no proper heating in my apartment, and the building has no insulation.

It gets down to around freezing in the winters here, so this is something of a problem.

I have two primary sources of heat.  The first, which I use on a daily basis, but only for an hour or two at a time, is the kerosene heater.  This is pretty standard.  It's a small unit, and it can heat up my living room quite easily, or my living room and kitchen with a bit more difficulty.  But, once I turn it off, it starts getting cold rather quickly again.  I usually leave it set between 17 and 19 degrees centrigrade.  I program it to turn on about a half hour before I wake up, so I can eat breakfast in a warm room.  It's off during the day, and then I run it for a few hours in the evening after work.  On the weekend, it tends to run for longer, as I'm home more.
It's powered by kerosene, which I buy at the gas station using a 20-litre plastic can.  I usually go through four or five cans over the course of the winter.

My other primary source of heat is the kotatsu table.  This is a coffee table with a detachable top and a small heating element underneath.  In winter, you remove the top, and sandwich a comforter between it and the lower layer.  This drapes down over the edges, forming a tent, and the underside of this tent is heating economically with the small electric heater.  I sit under this at all times, unless I'm cooking, bathing, using the toilet, or sleeping.  It helps quite a bit, and when combined with heavy clothing, makes the lack of proper heat much more tolerable.

At night, I try to get by with no heat.  Instead, I have a small electric blanket, which I put under my futon cushion.  Combined with several heavy blankets above me, this is enought to keep me warm through the night.  Last year, though, I was sick for all of December and January, so I ended up running a small electric fan heater and a humidifier while I slept.  I think that managed to keep the room above 10 degrees most of the time.  I will try to do without that this year.

In the mornings, I also run the small heater in the bathroom while I am showering, so that I don't freeze to death getting out of the shower.

My water is heated by a gas heater of some sort, of the flame-on-pipes variety.  I usually leave it set to 36 degrees, and try to turn it off during the day and overnight.

These heating arrangements are not too different from those commonly used by Japanese families.  In general, building insulation seems to be unknown in this country, and central heating an extreme rarity.

by Zwackus on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 12:34:13 AM EST
I am back in Japan as well (Kobe now). To save on air-conditioning, I missed a very hot summer here ;-)

For winter, some heater has to be bought indeed. Winter temperatures do not go below zero much, but high humidity makes you shiver. On weekdays, I usually come home late like you. Last winter I often kept heater fan on low at night, to keep myself just about healthy - I'm going to do better the coming season.  

by das monde on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 03:22:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I live in a appartment with central heating. The during a renovation the house has been isolated, so that even in winter I can leave the heating off or on low, unless the outside temperatures go below zero.

After the last energy crises Switzerland made laws that I think makes isolation mandatory (will look it up), for new houses and when you renovate. Two years ago the school house of the community has been renovated and isolated. They also have a non oil, alternative heating system, but right now I can't remember what it is.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 01:14:14 AM EST
I mean the energy crisis in the 70's.
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 01:15:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh>

Natural gas central heating in our house. We've had to use it for half an hour a few times because the new house is badly insulated - single glazing on a north facing bedroom is a bad idea - and we haven't had the time or the free cash flow (still waiting to sell other house!) to fix it.

Since I'm here all the time we try to keep the occupied areas - all on the north facing side of the house - at about 15-17C or so.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 04:02:49 AM EST
You know I always have been amazed by those single pane windows in the UK and apparently Ireland. I saw new buildings in the UK 3 years ago that still have them.

We always had them. I do remember, because as a kid, every year my grandmother did a big spring cleaning. That involed my grandfather have to unscrew the frame so my grandmother, my mother and me could clean the panes on the inside. Today there is a vacuum between the panes,  so you can not open them anymore and just have to clean them on the in- and outside.

The old houses had also second window panes, that used to be taken off in summer and put in the attic.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 04:16:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just cheapness: 15 years ago it wasn't obligatory so it wasn't done. Now it is obligatory on new builds so you can't buy a single glazed house.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 04:50:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The building I inhabit in Paris receives municipal geothermal heat with a possible supplement from natural gas plant co-generation.

For more info: Insight into Geothermal Reservoir Management District Heating in the Paris Basin, France [pdf]

It's been a brilliant initiative, if poorly implemented on the local level. Heat arrives in this 1960s-designed building in the form of forced air, the vents for which are placed at ceiling level [!]. So, when I do turn on the heat, the upper 20cms of the apt stay very nice and warm. Perfect for the spiders.

Though in fact I rarely need to use heat any more. It's a poor sign re GCC but, generally, in winter, I can get by with a bit of extra clothing, now.  

by Loefing on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 06:45:53 AM EST
I live in an apartment in an older building (1888) with single pane windows that need to properly insulated.  Seeing as my landlord doesn't care what  I put up so long as I take it down, I'm going to buy some insulation tape to feel the gaps.  The heating itself is electric, and starting this following year, there's going to be an option to buy "green power" from a local wind farm.

As far as heating use, despite the windows, it's got trememdous thermal mass (About 20 cms of brick and plaster), and I've only had to turn on the heat once for 5 minutes to make sure it worked.  (It's a really old building.  

I don't mind the heat or the cold.  I'll probably leave it at 58-59F (14C) in the winter, and I only use my airconditioning when it gets above 90F (32C) in the apartment.  I worked outside for several years in at a garden shop, and I'm used to severe weather.

Which Indiana will throw at you in large amounts.  The coldest I've personally seen is -29F(-34C), while at the other end I seen it get up to 108 F (42 C) when I was working.  So long as it in that sweet spot between 50F (10 C)and 90 F (32C) in my room I can handle it.

I think that in part, the American reputation for overheating is city folk who aren't accustomed to the idea that there's a natural ebb and flow to nature.  (A time when things turn green, it gets warm. A time when things die, and it gets cold.  To everything turn, turn, turn.  There is a season. Etc.)

Then again I may be an extreme polar bear example.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 09:30:58 AM EST
I think that in part, the American reputation for overheating is city folk who aren't accustomed to the idea that there's a natural ebb and flow to nature.  (A time when things turn green, it gets warm. A time when things die, and it gets cold.  To everything turn, turn, turn.  There is a season. Etc.)

This is a big factor, I think.  The younger generations (of which I am still a member, despite my age) have been brought up to pretend that seasons don't exist.  Hot outside?  AC.  Cold?  Heat.  No vegetables in winter?  Fly them in from Chile.  Everything is supposed to be just as comfortable at all times, and no adjustments should be made to the weather at all.

For whatever reason, the majority of new English teachers in my small Japanese city have been from California.  Year after year, a group of young women arrive who believe that it is a birthright to wear flip-flops all year long, and have no proper winter clothing, and no understanding of home heating.  But instead of adjusting to the situation after the first cold snap, they go into winter denial.  They keep doing things the way they always did, keep wearing their same, grossly inadequate clothes, and whatever, because they cannot bring themselves to believe that winter is really cold, and that you have to adapt your behavior to the world around you on occasion.  "Sure, I'm freezing to death, but it will only be for another few months."

The second year, they usually come around.  Or they go home.

It will be a horrible, horrible shock for such people should a real energy crisis demand that the seasons be recognized.

by Zwackus on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 11:14:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I don't understand is the Londoners with flip-flops and bare legs in winter. They should know better. Unless they all happen to be Australian or South African, which is a possiblity. There are fewer and fewer English in London.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2007 at 03:24:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It wasn't warm at all during the African winter in Jozi.

After suffering through cold evenings for some three weeks and nightly temperatures only getting colder, I gave in and bought this electricity vampire:

Considering the cottage in which I live, the roof is made from corrugated iron and a heat leak, windows are single pane, there is zero insulation, and the metal door to the outside has no doorstep (hence draughty). The floor is covered with stone tiles.

It took the heater full capacity to actually keep the room temperature stable let alone warm it.

Johannesburg has a long way to go.

BTW, if your insulation is all right, it may actually be more energy friendly for you to keep your daily temperatures  a bit higher - maintaining a temperature at 15 degrees C may cost less than heating up seven degrees to 20 degrees C. Or that was the advice my family got in the Netherlands... would love some verification on that.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 09:52:25 AM EST
keep your daily temperatures  a bit higher - maintaining a temperature at 15 degrees C may cost less than heating up seven degrees to 20 degrees C. Or that was the advice my family got in the Netherlands... would love some verification on that.

I don't think so. Heat loss by conduction through the walls depends directly on the temperature difference between inside and outside. It doesn't take "extra" energy to heat the house up...

by asdf on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 09:19:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We don't really do home heating here.  I'm fairly sure I've written about this before, because it bugs me.

I mean, a lot of buildings have it, in some form, but people generally refuse to use it.  There is a widespread urban myth here that "moving between a hot indoors and cold outdoors will make you sick," so most people I know refuse to turn on the heaters in their homes or offices during the winter, and just wear lots of extra sweaters.

This hot-cold concept, of course, does not prevent these exact same people from air-conditioning their homes and offices down to a chilly -10 degrees in the sweltering summers.  OK, I'm exaggerating a little, but they seriously do set the A/C to an average of about 17°C/62°F.

But to get back to the heat... a better reason to avoid using the heaters in our apartments is because electrical wiring is so shoddy here that things frequently catch on fire.  People believe heaters are more prone to this.  This is also sort of weird, because most heating units, when they exist, are actually combo A/C and heat units.  You climate control on a room-by-room basis.  People believe using these units to heat an apartment leads to fires, but not using the same exact units to cool an apartment.  I don't get it.

That said, they do sometimes catch fire, whichever function they're being used for.  I won't use two of the climate control units in my apartment because I've had trouble with their wiring in the past, and no matter how many times someone comes to repair it, it never seems to really get fixed.

I do actually like to heat my apartment, but I only bother to heat the rooms I'm actually using at the time.  And the room with my TV in it is too drafty to heat well, so I just pile on a bunch of blankets if I want to watch TV in the winter and don't bother with the heater.

The units themselves are generally electric-powered forced-air units that are built into every room.  They all have an inside portion and an outside portion.  You can see them from the outside of an apartment building, these boxes with fans sticking out from the walls or fixed to the balcony railings.

I don't think much of anything is insulated, but most buildings are made of concrete and brick anyway.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 10:35:30 AM EST
I think the behaviours you are describing can be explained by assuming they have a mental model where "heating" involves fire and "cooling" involves ventilation.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2007 at 03:28:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I own and live in a twelve-unit apartment building in southern Ontario - Canada. 2 floors up, and one floor 1/2 buried below ground level. Winters can get cold and summers hot.

The building I own was built in the late 60's when nuclear power was going to be too cheap to meter. We have electric baseboard heat. Surprisingly we have r12 insulation in the walls and flat roof. Below grade there is Styrofoam insulation on 1x1 lattice - I believe around R5. We have double pane "sliders".

We had a foundation leak a few years back. While they were digging out about 1/3 of the foundation, I had them put in insulation on the outside of the building - I believe it was R7.  The tenant whose insulation was upgraded with insulation on the outside indicated major increases in comfort and ease of heating her unit. We recently had the roof replaced. We arranged the roof to be upgraded from r12 to r24.

A number of similar buildings have replaced their windows with modern double pane windows. We have not - instead we spent our money on upgrading the roof.

We usually do not turn on heat in our unit until the temperature is well below 0 outside. We do not shut our windows until the temperature is below 0 outside. When we heat we either use a space heater and heat one room - or we turn on the heat when company is coming over, or when we are ill. We like to keep the temperature around 12C overnight and around 16C during the day. With the south facing windows and the units above and below us, our apartment will heat beyond that even on very cold winter days.

Our tenants typically will heat to maybe 27 or 28, and wear shorts and short sleeve shirts indoors. When I need to do work in someone's unit, typically I will turn off the heat, open a window, do work, shut the window and turn the heat back on.

Cooling is done by window air conditioners. In the summer tenants will typically cool into the low 20's. Some form of cooling is required, especially in the south facing units as temperatures will go into the mid to low 30's on some days.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 11:24:54 AM EST
District heating. Pretty much every house in the city has it.

The CHP is fired by peat, biofuels and trash.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 12:21:44 PM EST
Seriosly, am I the only person with district heating? It's after all the absolutely superior way to heat houses. Using what is in effect waste heat, and eliminating all the small and inefficient distributed heaters with a single massive super-efficient centralized one.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Oct 19th, 2007 at 07:24:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the first few years i used just the open fireplace, like the olden days, when it was also the kitchen hearth, big enough to throw huge logs on, (i imagine a big benefit when everything had to cut and split by hand). unfortunately it's up agin an outside wall, and so you'd freeze yer tits off while warming yer back, and viceversa, 90% of the heat went straight up the chimney, and when the northwind -la tramontana- would blow down it, well, an exercise in sentimental futility was what it was, tho' i used a lot of fallen branches and beefy chunks of free offcuts from the lumberyard that would have need a lot of work to get into a stove, so that was good.

there's a furniture factory that will give away as much compressed wood shavings as you can take for free, when autumn comes around they start to sell it, 5€ for a widdle box that would last about an hour, as it was bonedry.

i keep meaning to get a friend with a truck to go and stock up on it while it's free, but haven't got around to it yet...

then i had radiators and a propane boiler put in, spent ridiculous and escalating costs for three years, €4000-7000!!!!, then gave it up in favour of a woodstove, which heated the water as well with a backboiler.

that worked great for the water, but not so much for ambient heating, and i'd shiver through the winter, lotsa sweaters, bracing walks and work outside to keep circulation high...very lonesome though as only for the hardcore....sometimes cut off by snow for a couple of weeks, had to park about a mile away. after 23 years of tropical winters, cold was a novelty, it bounced right off, and come spring i'd roll around on the grass in the sun, and locals would wag their fingers, saying i'd get arthritis or rheumatism for sure...

and sure enough i did after a few years...muscles'd get rigid, lower back issues kicking in, whacking on the drums sometimes to warm up enough to play guitar or piano, got good at playing with joints feeling brittle as glass, stop, blow on hands, continue 5 more minutes...

sleeping i don't mind the cold in the room, love the windows open even subzero, as long as the heating pad works....lifesavers, those guys...

between a hot meal, hot bath, and a warm bed i'd grimace and bear it....sure made spring a visceral experience....

bone-level anticipation...

this year i decided to upgrade stoves to one the maker swears will make the whole three floor cottage toasty warm, serve as an oven for breads or casseroles, as well as sort the hot water, and the radiators too!

this i'll believe when it happens!

i have been very surprised how well his stoves work in friends' houses, so chose to go with his system. the other stoves i saw of his had a double metal jacket and a small pump driving air through it and out into the room, mine he says will not need to use that principle.

i had some tiles handpainted for the outside, and they were finally ready today, so i expect the stove will be here next week, well in time for the first frosts.

getting ready for the final tile firing:

i'm especially looking forward to cooking with it, thus saving gas, which goes fast when you like to bake...

and being able to have more of a social life at home wintertime!

i had double glazed windows put in back in the early 90's when i first restored, now they use triple around here. i had the roof insulated, don't remember how thick it was, thick enough anyway.

wood is dirt cheap here, as in go outside and cut it...to buy it can cost an average house more than 1000 € a winter, still w-a-y cheaper than gas, which can easily go 4 times that much.

to get the new solar panels on i'm going to have to move the chimney, so i hope it draws as well as it used to.

since there is no stove hooked up to the 'double serpentine' water tank, i've been relying only on the solar panels to heat the house water, which i got away with since august, only having to heat bath and dishwater by gas on three days since then.

i'd ripped out the old gas heater, swearing a blue streak at my folly, so i did it on the cooker.

we have had an unusually sunny autumn so far, yet we need rain for the water table, so i want my luck to hold a few more days!

the ground floor used to be animal stalls, so the open fireplace is on the second floor, i'm thinking of putting the woodstove i originally had downstairs up in the open fireplace and dedicating it for a hot tub, since it does such a good job with water...it's a 'villager', brought in from merry england about 8 years ago.

i do need to make some thick drapes and curtains also, to deal with the odd draft, and just cuz they're nice, then some wooden shutters for the doors and windows would be optimal.

it never ends....

if it keeps getting warmer, all this might be moot...

last year was the first my geraniums stayed alive all year, not flowering, but alive!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 02:03:58 PM EST
When we bought this house, we installed a gas heater that was pretty much as efficient as they came back then (14 years ago), and since then we've successively added insulation as we've renovated/improved. Because it's a townhouse we don't have to worry about 2 sides of the building, and because it's only 5 m wide the exposed walls are relatively small.

Our thermostat is set to 18 °C daytime/15 °C night.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 02:50:39 PM EST
We have natural gas heating. We live in a building which was built in 1580 and is not very well insulated. Some of our windows have been redone and are double glass, but we have a single glass window facing north. We usually put a thick felt curtain there in the winter to try to prevent all the heat escaping.

At first we had some trouble getting used to the heating system and lower indoor temperatures. In Finland we had central heating and a very well insulated home (you kind of have to in Finland anyway) and our room temperature was usually about 23-25, even in winter. Here we are trying to keep it at about 20 when we are home and 14 during daytime when we're at work/school.

We've so far had to put the heater on a couple of times. When it's windy and chilly out, the apartment really cools fast. Last year we managed til November without heating, but this has been a much cooler autumn.

You have a normal feeling for a moment, then it passes. --More--

by tzt (tzt) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 05:27:32 PM EST
I live in a modern apartment which is very well insulated and has underfloor heating.  I haven't needed to use the heating so far this year since last winter. It is slow to heat up but keeps the room at a nice temperature without drying the air right out like central heating often does.  

The first sign of cold over the last couple of weeks has meant that I now keep the living room door shut to trap warmth in the living room - which comes from cooking tea in the kitchen and that is all that is needed.

When the mornings start getting really cold I set the heating in my room to be on for when I wake up and then I leave it off for the rest of the day since I tend to live in the living room.  If it is really bitter cold outside or I am unwell then I'll have the living room heating on low for longer, it seems to be more energy efficient to do that than to keep turning on and off.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 06:01:22 PM EST
Our heating system is  a coal/wood  unit with a back boiler that runs the hot water tank, and a selection of radiators throughout the house.

 as a rough guide we run the sytem for about six hours a day, roughly from october to march. As for wood, we havent sourced this years supply yet. The usual scheme for that is to get several houses of people together and get cleanup rights to a chunk of forestry comission land. When the forestry has cleaned out a sectionthen there tends to be aquite a large selection of substandard wood left.when the area gets replanted it gets ploughed in or burnt. For a modest fee you can get the rights to clear out that section before replanting. frequently that adds up to several tons of pine logs.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 06:04:29 PM EST
I am really surprised by the apparent lack of modern insulation in buildings in so many of the residences reflected in this diary.  We've had two houses here near Wash DC since the mid 70s and both have had R14 insulated walls, R32 ceilings and double glazed windows (triple and exotic filled also available). These standards are common.  I suppose one reason is that it's easy to build and insulate our tinderboxes.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Wed Oct 17th, 2007 at 11:32:03 PM EST
Your R ratings:

  •  Your wall insulation is far above what code was in the area until the 1990s, I beieve.

  •  Recommended R for the area is R-19 walls and R-45 in the attic

And, I would expect that the vast majority of existing homes in the area do not come close to these levels.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 12:35:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I was a little off.  The 70s structure was R11 all exterior walls, R33 attic.

Our 1994-95 constructed (and current house) is R30 attic, R19 overhangs, R13 exterior walls, R11 unfinished lower (basement) level. Windows are double pane thermal insulated.  Looks like we could update our attic but exterior wall changes could be expensive due to lack of depth and requirement to remove siding or interior wall board.

All still a lot better than what I expected to be standard in other parts of the world.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 10:26:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much better than mine and, well, I face the very expensive to upgrade existing walls. (Easy are all done.)  I might pull out the R19 in the one crawl space, spray foam an inch (R-7, plus near 100% leak proof) and put the fiberglass back up.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 08:13:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DC area ..

  • Fossil Fuel system:  90+% efficiency gas furnace plus a SEER16+ heat pump, with controller choosing between electricity & gas for heating efficiency based on temperatures (and prices)

  • Radiant floor heating for one portion of house

  • High-Efficiency wood-burning fireplace (haven't used it yet) -- partial of heating load -- only using wood cut down within walking distance (e.g., neighbor's trees)

  • Controller:  10 degrees C (50 f) when house unoccupied; 16 deg C night (63 degrees); generally 19-20 deg C occupied (67-69 F). (Note: young children, driving to higher temperatures.)


Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!
by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 12:32:25 AM EST
We replaced our gas furnace last year and chose an 85% unit vs new high efficiency 90-96% side venting on advice of several installers.  They said extra price and efficiency didn't justify the extra markup and complexity/reliability issues of high efficiency units.

We did get a variable speed, low voltage blower that should save some plus it improved the efficiency of our SEER 13 AC purchased the year before. Difficult choices, and the estimates I got for the same equipment were amazingly far apart in price, as much as $1500 for the same furnace.  Unbelievable!

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 10:36:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Austin TX - natural gas central heating unit.  We turned it on maybe three times this past winter, and then only to heat up to about 68 degrees (20 celsius).  

Where we are, the issue is cooling.  When it's in the 90's outside, we keep it between 79-80 (26 C) inside.

Thanks for the interesting comparisons.  I was amazed the first time I saw the basement energy systems in my German relatives' homes.  They looked like the command center in a futuristic film to me, those HUGE oil tanks and such.  

One problem with visiting lots of government buildings in my work is that they almost invariably overheat in winter.  I picture taxpayer money going up in smoke.

Karen in Austin

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher

by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 07:02:55 AM EST
Home: Gas Central Heating and doubble glasing - new government funded insulation in loft, but outside wall insulation probably non-existant, as we live in a 70ies flat-roof extention to a 1900century cottage.
We don;t have a thermometer, and the wife wants it warmer anyway. I try to keep it at around 18oC to 20oC in the rooms we use, colder in the bedroom, and off in the room we don;t use. Installed thermostats on all the radiators, when we moved in, so they can be individually switched off.
Germany. The flats I used to have in East Germany would have a "Berliner" something like that.
You fire it up in the morning for an hour, cut off the air flow and have a warm flat for the whole day. Double glasing on the windows, where two seperate single glased windows, which always seem to make sense to me.
MoL: 12century building - unheatable. Oil central heating and two nice fireplaces with coal and wood, that are needed not just for show, but also when we run out of oil and the next delivery is not till February...
by PeWi on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 10:25:58 AM EST
As most people in the region, I have natural gas heating.

A central water heater takes care of two circles of central heating (a new one for below-the-roof rooms, an older for the ground level) and tap water heating. (A solar water heater is linked to it, does all the water heating in summer, but that's no more useful in the heating season.) The heater is regulated by a programmable thermostat in the main room, elsewhere the radiators have thermostats.

The building was re-insulated before we moved in, but it wasn't well done in some places. I note that in this region, it was custom to build houses with multiple windows that open separately, so the critical point is not the glass but the edge of window frames. As for two of our Velux double-glazed roof windows. Also, one room is above the (unheated) garage, with non-insulated floor. Still, even in this room, temperatures fall only 2-3°C through one frosty night even if there is no heating.

I am surprised at how cold homes some of you live in.

The standard figure I learnt is 21°C day/19°C night. As for too much,  I know some people who prefer 26°C at home, which I don't like even on brief visits. Presently I'm set for 20°C day/17-18°C night in the winter. However, I lived through last winter with a bad central heating (the new circle was connected the wrong way, thus hot water rose up along the first tube in the radiators and barely heated, the heat conducted by the floor from the ground-level rooms probably counted more), with temperatures of 18°C day/15°C night when it was sub-zero outside -- and that for weeks and months definitely wasn't comfortable, I felt my joints, and sinuses. (I once slept in 2°C, but that was one night.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 01:45:13 PM EST
About my current workplace in a separate comment. Heating there is a totally insane affair.

When we moved in nearly two years ago, the rooms were renovated, and though the thin walls weren't insulated, the windows were replaced (with standard double-glazing). But the heating system wasn't. It is a central heating, with old radiators without thermostats. A guy belonging to an entirely different branch on a floor below us is responsible for firing it up, which he often does an hour after people arrive, so first we freeze. But then the water in the (thick) pipes is so hot that even opening the radiators to a minimum is more than enough, everyone plays the same game: leave it open in the morning, fifteeen minutes after heat-up close it and open the windows, then start over an hour later... (To boot, my neighbor's radiator is stuck in the minimum state and just can't be turned off.)

So this is a complete waste of energy. But things will remain the same for a long time, because lack of funds leads to insane ways of 'saving': no permission to invest, so the company throws out much more money on the long run on energy...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 01:55:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I post-n-run, on the road (by bus and train, natch).

Home heater:  ancient "Day and Night" nat gas wall heater.  Most of the heat goes straight upstairs :-)  Solution:  in the winter I live mostly upstairs.

Other solution:  in the winter I use the kitchen oven more, which when baking or roasting food, warms up the kitchen very nicely.

Solution to cold bedroom (which I prefer for sleeping actually):  eiderdown and a "dry hot-waterbottle" made of flax seeds in a cotton bag.  Microwave bag for about 5 minutes and enjoy toasty feet all night -- and no spills.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Oct 18th, 2007 at 08:17:10 PM EST
none.   Hottest day in summer is 90-95.  Coldest winter night is about 60.  No point in HVAC.

we waste our energy on hot water and pumping for irrigation.  Should have gone solar or electric point of delivery.  Now we'll have to buy some PV instead.  If energy gets tight enough, we'll let the yard die back in summer and replace what doesn't survive with something else.

We are trying to minimize our footprint.  Paid 3X for an extremely high efficiency pool circulation pump.  Only pulls 200 watts vs. more like 2000 for what the builder was going to install.

by HiD on Fri Oct 19th, 2007 at 05:24:26 AM EST


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